Vowelspaces

<< BEFORE: Rabbit selects random consonants! …

SCRUNCHED FINGER UPDATE!: It has come to our attention that this famous Slovak tongue-twister has its own Wikipedia page, featuring spectrographic analysis PLUS several other dramatically longer example sentences (in Czech, alas) that will “knck yr scks” off!

(Note that we have previously used less violent “scrunch your finger” variant, which avoids goriness of actually sticking your finger through your throat, as featured in above wiki entry.)

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11 thoughts on “Vowelspaces

  1. I just know a few words, I do have some books and tapes. My daughter wants to learn she always greets me and says good night in Slovak.She knows a few other words also. It is hard to learn when you are the only learner.

    • Compared to any other world language, Slovak is very difficult. Unfortunately, many cultural factors in Slovakia increase difficulty of learning it. Rabbit studied with book Hovorme Spolu po Slovensky, which is very good book, but as you can see it teaches Slovak WITHOUT intermediary language (i.e. without any translation, because of its use in multinational classrooms) so as stand-alone book it requires you to understand Slovak in order to learn Slovak. This does not work for everybody, but it does nicely complement university approach to studying Slovak (e.g., foreign student department staff speak only Slovak!)… Actually, come to think of it, rabbit has gotten best results from learning song lyrics & playing with kids.

  2. What’s hilarious is how easily and smoothly words like “vzblknut” roll off the tongues of Slovaks when you ask them to repeat them. The trick is in realizing that although there are no vowels, there are still subtle, de-emphasized vowel sounds. The “blk” in “vzblknut” is pronounced a little bit like “bulk,” so it’s kind of deceptive. Let’s just be thankful that Slovak does not use the dreaded “ř” – a commonly used sound in Czech that is pronounced something like “zhr”. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pronounce Břeclav correctly! My wife says that even Slovaks don’t always say “ř” correctly.

    • Ah yes indeed, but to Slovak tongue, “Z” & “L” are both vowels, so of course VZBLKNUT’ tumbles mellifluously without recourse to intermediary “UH” (as in Enlish “bUlk”) — L suffices as voiced vowel, for swallow-sound (HLASNY HLT) of straight-up “BLK”!
      C+D+K salutes Slovaks’ sheer phonetic chutzpah, by which they precede swallowed cluster like “BLK” with buzzing prefix “VZ-” and follow up with “-NUT” for good measure, creating linguistic equivalent of trapeze-artist tongue diving through cloud of angry bees into shallow pool of cold gulaš (in two-syllable word, no less)!

      But please clarify, is “ř” sound distinct from RŽ sound in “dRŽgroš”?

      • You describe it so well. To a native English speaker, it truly is like linguistic trapeze, but when spoken by Slovaks, these words come off as smooth as silk, like there’s nothing to it. Just goes to show how much easier it is when one is exposed to the language as a baby.

        The “vz” is particularly crazy. I have noticed that the “v” is barely pronounced, like a whisper, with more emphasis on the “z”. Of course, I’m likely to get lazy and/or confused and sometimes leave the “v” out. (Which doesn’t always work – Slovaks can be more unforgiving than the French when someone mispronounces their words – but I think that has more to do with Slovaks not being as accustomed to hearing foreigners mangle it in the first place!).

        As for “ř” and the RŽ sound in “dRŽgroš”, I’ll have to ask my wife and report back.

      • I asked my wife about the Czech “ř” sound vs. the Slovak RŽ sound (as in “dRŽgroš”), and she maintains that the two sounds are different. I had her repeat them several times, and yes, I could hear the difference. The “ř” is softer and more nuanced; its multiple sounds kind of more crammed together, if that makes sense (and certainly more difficult for me to pronounce). Granted, the untrained listener would probably have trouble telling the two sounds apart if hearing them in normal conversation.

      • Thank you Jeff — Now please repeat clarificatory experiment using accented R from “vŕba”! (We assume this is completely distinct accented R…but WHY?)

      • Oops! Never mind! We see the ř is HATTED R, not ACCENTED R… Hat makes a softer fatter sound (C–>Č &c.), so of course it is distinct from accented R. Ha ha.

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